Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Little Plugged Up

This has to be a picture-less post, because I simply could not find a picture appropriate to this topic...

Fairly explicit post below - so be forewarned if you get squeamish about nursing.

Mastitis and Plugged Milk Ducts - the dreaded duo of nursing mothers.

I have never had Mastitis (yes, I KNOW I'm lucky - I'm sorry if you've ever had it, from what I understand it is dreadful). However, I've had plenty of clogged milk ducts. Especially in the last 3 weeks, and they can be VERY painful.

With all my kids I remain clog free for the first 4-6 months of nursing. Probably due to the fact that they are nursing more frequently and they still nurse through the night. But those plugged ducts always rear their ugly heads. Luckily, they usually ease up and go away around 9 months (at least for me).

This time has been no exception. I started getting my plugged ducts about a month ago. They have escalated BADLY this time to the point where I have been getting them every couple days, and some times on a daily basis. It's ridiculous friends...

This is most likely due to the fact that my baby is now sleeping through the night and I have an inordinate amount of milk at 3:00 or 4:00 AM. I have to get up and pump out a couple of ounces just to ease up the pressure and be able to go back to sleep. I'm hoping I'll stop producing in the night EVENTUALLY. SIGH.

In any case, in my desperation I have found some tricks that have helped me. So here we go...

1 - Make sure your bra/shirts are not too tight. Sometimes when I have a bad clog I'll take my bra off at around 8:00 after we are all winding down. That gives me a few hours at night without it pressing on my clogs and sometimes this is all I need to get it unstuck.

2 - Nurse the sore side FIRST. The baby's suck is stronger when he/she is hungry. If you feel like your baby didn't get all the milk out - put your pump on for just 1-2 minutes to make sure everything is cleared out.

3 - Dangle nurse. This is a weird trick and is new to me this time. The suggestion I read recommended laying your baby on the floor and kneeling over the top so as to use gravity to force the clog out. I found it was just as effective to sit cross legged with the baby on my lap and to lean over. This REALLY helped though. A couple of sessions of dangle nursing are sometimes all it takes to get the clog out.

4 - Apply heat. Take a warm shower and try to massage where it is sore (I know, it hurts). Or heat up a bean bag about 5 minutes before you feed the baby and apply it to the sore side. Then massage for about 30 seconds before you start feeding. This is a life saver.

5 - Garlic. I've read that you should eat a lot of it, though that's not the trick I've tried. My SIL gave me the advice of putting a raw garlic clove in my bra. This works great for me. I find a HUGE garlic clove, peel it and set it right next to the clog. For some reason this works - I swear.

6 - To prevent future clogs take Lecithin. This is a LARGE capsule that you can find in pretty much any store that sells medicine. The bottles aren't too expensive and they come with 100 capsules. Kelly mom recommends taking 3-4 capsules per day until you go a few weeks without clogs, then you can reduce it by one capsule, eventually working down to one. There are no ill effects for babies or nursing mothers.

If I use these tricks I can generally get a plugged milk duct cleared up in under 24 hours, though I've had some nasty ones that lasted for DAYS (maybe even a week).

For other suggestions see the Kelly Mom website.

Now for your input...

What do you do for plugged milk ducts?
What do you do for mastitis?
Share your horror/success stories!
And one more thing... how do I get rid of all the milk I'm making in the night????


Megan said...

I've had mastitis once with Lucas and luckily haven't had it again with Emily. Mastitis has a very quick come on and settles in if you aren't able to get on top of it. One of the first signs of mastitis is feeling heat and soreness in your breast. Then usually you will start running a fever. Call your doctor immediately!!! They will call you in a prescription and you usually don't even have to go in and be seen. I've never met anyone or heard of any one that's had mastitis clear up on it's own and it can quickly move to a worse infection. Mastitis seriously makes you feel like you've been run over by a semi and it keeps coming back for more passes.

I know you can use cabbage leaves to help with engorgement, and I also know if you use them too much they will reduce your milk supply. So maybe if you supply really isn't lessening on it's own you could try that.

Cel Frumos said...

I had mastitis more times than I can count. It is so nasty!

We had to put our house on the market the day I brought my first baby home from the hospital so I was in/out all week with showings ... it totally did me in. With the second baby, we made a Transcontinental move when he was three weeks and ... sure enough, with all the moving madness and not being able to FOCUS on the baby and nursing, I got it again. So not fun!

For me, mastitis always starts with a clogged duct, and with my third baby, finally figured out how to keep a clogged duct from turning into mastitis. We made it through our whole nursing experience without me ever getting an infection. The tips you listed are all the same things that ended up working for me.

I'm surprised your body isn't slowing down your milk production at night. Sounds like you're doing the right thing by just pumping a small amount. The only other suggestion I can think of is to skip the 3 am pumping altogether (if you can handle it) and then maybe pump a little at like 6-7 before your AM feed. Good luck!

Jared and Delia said...

Great tips. I have had Mastitis like 6 times between my two kids. It makes me really nervous about nursing with our third because once all that scar tissue builds up the chances of getting it again are higher.

I have never tried that garlic trick though. I will be implementing that for sure! Oh and the Lecithin. I might have to be on that the whole time I'm nursing. Those are both things I never got advice on before. Though I really wish I had. Thanks!

As for my two cents. Don't be afraid to massage the clogs out. Don't be too rough at first but be direct and firm about kneading those clogs out. Once you target exactly where the problem spot is, you can and should be more aggressive - at least I am. It is best to massage while nursing - use your boppy to help prop the baby up. If it gets really bad, take a warm, moist compress and lay across your breast after you've fed the baby. Reheat the compress and use it to help you massage and push out infected milk. If the infection has progressed pretty far you will be pushing out thick, congealed, yellow and sometimes green/brown strands of milk - so you will have to apply a lot of pressure to get that to come out. Sounds disgusting, it's really painful, but until that infection gets out, it will continue to hurt and not heal. This is especially true when you have recurring mastitis like me.

If you are not getting better within a few days of taking the anti-biotic call your doctor and request a different stronger kind. I went 10 days before I finally called the doctor in complete tears because I honestly felt like I was terminally ill. She switched me to amoxicillan and I was better in two days. Don't be afraid to bug them and ask! You know your body better than they do, so don't let them pacify you into trying it for longer. If it isn't working after a 72 hours - you should feel a little more semblance of your former self and not have a fever and such, it probably won't at all. Good luck!